Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Isle of Anguilla

There is a little island out in the Caribbean called Anguilla.  It lies just north of Saint Martin.  It's about 16 miles long and a little over three miles wide at its widest point.  Its total population is a little over 13,000. Its main industry is tourism followed closely by corporations which set up there to avoid taxes in their home countries. The natives speak predominantly English since the Island once belonged to Great Britain.

It was also home to a father who was divorced from a mother several years ago.  Since the divorce he has wanted to take his daughter back to his homeland to visit his relatives.  The mother is quite nervous about that.

When the parties divorced, they agreed that the father would not take the daughter to the Island until the Island adopted and implemented the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of Child Abduction.  (In International Family Law we just call it the Hague Convention.)  The Hague Convention is a treaty between many nations about how its wrong to abduct children to another country and how the parent from the child's home state can go about getting the children back. 

Readers here know we do an awful lot of International Family Law, Hague Convention work.  We're quite good at it.

In addition to adopting the Hague Convention, before the father could return to the Island with his daughter, Anguilla was also supposed to enact legislation that would require extradition of a parent who violates the Hague Convention.

With something just over 13,000 people, the father, by report, is a bit of a muckity-muck in Anguilla so, after the divorce, he set about getting that country to adopt the Hague Convention.  Story has it, they did.  The problem is that Anguilla doesn't seem to want to broadly publish this contention.  Though the father argues that Anguilla adopted the Hague Convention in 2007, that adoption has yet to turn up on any international list of adopted and approved countries.

Further, the Hague Convention is fairly specific about the mechanism to carry out the country's obligations.  It requires the creation of something called a Central Authority which administers all of the Hague requirements.  Further, this operation is supposed to be swift.  No procrastinating here.

But Anguilla hasn't done anything to implement the Hague.  They don't have a Central Authority.  Its as though they've created a store front with no insides.  It is all window dressing.

And then there is the capper.  Anguilla has done nothing to enact legislation to ensure extradition of a parent who violates the Hague Convention.  So, we have a treaty in name only with no enforcement mechanism and no law guarranteeing extradition.  No child, no perpetrator, all shell game.

Back during the divorce, the father was often quick to say he would steal the child away to Anguilla, never to be heard from again.  On an Island of 13,000 I find that a little hard to believe.  But short of landing Marines or some equivalent, there is no way to rescue this little girl from that Island, except for the guarrantees required by the Court in the parties' divorce and provided by the Hague Convention.

Now the father has asked the Court to find that Anguilla has adopted and enacted the Hague Convention.  He's pretending the extradition part of the Order isn't there.  Father hopes to be off across the sea in short order.

Mother?  She's still quite nervous.  And little girl?  Since the divorce in 2005, Father has yet to spend more than three consecutive days with little girl without returning her to Mother.  Little girl is not so keen on the idea of a Caribbean vacation either.

But frankly, if Anguilla is good with the Hague Convention and gets this extradition problem fixed, we all should be good with the proposal.  Time marches on. Little girls grow up.  Sometimes countries do too.

But also frankly, if Anguilla, or this father, is playing an elaborate shell game to spirit this child away to a country that will not return her, it will be a cold day in hell before she steps on that plane.

Michael Manely


  1. Anguilla cannot enter into treaties. Anguilla is not a country -- it is a British Overseas Territory. Sorta like Guam. You know Guam? If the UK has adopted a treaty, it can extend that treaty to any of those OTs that wish to adopt it. No child abduction treaty has been extended to Anguilla, and your client's ex-husband may not be being entirely truthful on this point. Here are the treaties and conventions that have been extended to Anguilla in the past 25 years or more:

    But I'm sure you knew all this, nuh?

    Bobo Johnny
    Anguilla, British West Indies

  2. Thanks for the information, but Anguilla has entered into treaties in the past and asserts that the Hague is one of them.

    If it were not, I doubt it would have gone to the trouble. If it were without power to enter into treaties, then someone is going to an awful lot of trouble to try to accomplish something they could have accomplished, without fuss and without court intervention, five years ago.

    I am very pleased, though, that you picked up on this blog post.

    The next time I'm in Anguilla, we'll have to meet up and have the Anguillan equivalent of a Red Stripe. What would that be?

    Michael Manely